Despite a spate of injuries to some of their best players, the Astros continue to win. They lead their division by nine games and are tied for the best record in all of baseball. Just to clarify, this is without Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Aledmys Diaz and Max Stassi.
Much of their continued success is owed both to a consistently excellent pitching staff and a well-managed lineup with a mix of youngsters and veterans (that and Alex Bregman).
The most recent call up was Yourdan Alvarez. Alvarez had been bruising pitching opponents in the minor leagues to such a degree that they were intentionally walking him at nearly every plate appearance. His offensive numbers (particularly the 23 home runs) were mind boggling. But, he was held back from the major league club for a variety of reasons, the most important of which was the ability to keep him from reaching arbitration for an additional year if he didn't get called up until June.
The minute (almost literally) he entered the majors, he did so with a bang. In his second plate appearance, he rocketed a laser to right center field at Minute Maid Park for his first major league homer. Alvarez still isn't 100 percent comfortable as a fielder, but spending time at DH and left field should be fine for now.
With all of the talent on display even with some of their best on the shelf, it raises a fun, very early season question about just how good this team could be when finally healthy. The lineup possibilities would be pretty scary if you had to face the 'Stros come playoff time.
Bregman is third in the AL in home runs and in the top 10 in on-base percentage. Springer, even with his stint on the injury list, remains fourth and is in the top 10 in batting average, OBP and OPS. Everyone knows how difficult an out Altuve is. This may be the most dangerous first three batters in the majors.
Brantley is still one of the better everyday hitters in the game, fifth in batting average in the AL and already with double-digit home runs. Correa was finally looking like the player we all expected him to be. And, fingers crossed, Alvarez has the potential to be a lethal DH in the six hole.
Bottom of the Lineup
After a slow start, Gurriel has returned to form with good contact and is a double waiting to happen. Reddick, remarkably, continues to rank among the league's best in batting average. Chirinos already has 10 homers and 11 doubles.
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Marysnick is one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball, while Kemp gives you speed on the base paths (ditto Straw and Fisher) and a tough out at the plate. Diaz has shown his worth as a utility man with some pop in his bat and Stassi has been a reliable catching replacement.
It's not just the depth the Astros have, but the quality of depth that is so surprising. This is without even mentioning Kyle Tucker, who continues to improve at Triple A an is considered and overall better prospect than Alvarez.
If, always a big if, the Astros can get fully healthy, they are going to be insanely difficult to face even if you don't count the incredible pitching and defense. In short, and in the most Captain Obvious statement this year, these guys are really, really good at baseball and may only get better.